Pap Tests have been phased out in favour of an alternative known as HPV tests – which will start at a later age, with more than double the time between examinations.
Experts say this will improve early detection and save lives.
However, before you start celebrating, the end of the Pap Smear, does not mean the end of invasive examinations.
Pap smears aren’t usually a highlight on a woman’s calendar because they involve a doctor inserting a speculum – a tool that looks like a duck bill – into the vagina to prise the walls apart. This enables them access to the cervix – the opening to the uterus – where they can take a sample of cells using a special brush.
What has changed?
The change from Pap smear to HPV screening does bring some good news:
- You’ll be tested every 5 years, instead of every 2 years
- You won’t start having tests until you’re 25 years old, increased from 18 years of age
- Self-collection using vaginal swabs will be an option for some women
On the downside, tests will now continue until you’re 74, instead of stopping when you turn 69 years of age.
The new Cervical Screening Test procedure is similar to the Pap smear test.
For both tests a doctor takes a sample of cells from the cervix. However, the Pap smear test used to look for abnormal cells in the cervix, while the Cervical Screening Test looks for HPV infection. The new test for HPV can identify women who could be at risk of cervical cancer earlier than the Pap test could.
Women aged 25 to 74 years of age should have a Cervical Screening Test two year after their last Pap test. Subsequently, you will only need to have the test every five years if your results are normal.
The reason the age has change from 18 to 25 for your first screening is that most women under the age of 25 will have been vaccinated for HPV. In addition, cervical cancer in women under 25 is rare.
Having a test for HPV every five years offers the best chance of preventing cervical cancer. It is a quick and simple test used to check for HPV infection.
More information about cervical screening tests (CST) is available via Cancer Council: